Sesquicentennial celebration

History of Iowa State: People of Distinction

Sponsored by the University Archives, Iowa State University Library

Copyright 2006




Anson Marston

Anson Marston was born in Seward, Illinois on May 31, 1864 to George and Sarah Scott Marston. He received a C.E. degree (1889) from Cornell University. Marston worked as a construction engineer (1889-1891) for the Missouri Pacific Railroad. He joined the staff at Iowa State College (University) in 1892 as Professor and Head (1892-1917) of the Department of Civil Engineering and became Dean (1904-1932) of the Division of Engineering. Maston, after stepping down and resuming teaching duties, was named Senior Dean (1932-1937) until he retired in 1937.

While at Iowa State, he developed the Engineering Division into a prestigious program. Marston established the Engineering Experiment Station (1904) and became its first Director (1904-1932). He designed Iowa State College sewage disposal system and water tower (Marston Water Tower), and initiated the building of Engineering Hall (Marston Hall). He also supervised the building of the Campanile and the restoration of Lake LaVerne. He established the Iowa State Highway Commission (Iowa Department of Transportation).

In addition to his work for Iowa State, Marston also engaged in consulting work. For the city of Ames he designed the water pumping station, the reservoir, the elevated water tank, and the Ames Water Pollution Control system. He served as a consultant on many projects such as the Marshalltown (Iowa) sewage system, Manning (Iowa) water tower, and riverfront improvements with flood control at Dubuque, Cedar Rapids, and Council Bluffs. He also designed and consulted on waterworks projects for Waterloo (Iowa) and Rockford (Illinois). Anson Marston was also consultant on both the national and international level. He worked with the Hoover Commission on the Panama and Nicaragua Canals, the Mississippi River Flood Control Review Board, the Florida Everglades Research Commission, and the Columbia Basin Reclamation Project. In addition, he worked on several civil engineering projects in the cities of Lincoln (Nebraska), Chicago, Miami , Oakland, and Alameda (California).

During World War I, he served as a Major (1917-1918) in the Engineering Corps and was promoted to Lieutenant Colonel (1918). He was a Colonel of Engineers (1924-1928) for the U. S. Reserve Corps and a member of the auxiliary reserve (1928-1944). At the time of his death he held the honorary commission of Colonel.

Anson Marston's main area of research was in road construction, culverts and sewer systems, compression and pressure tests, and load distributions. In addition he studied soil dynamics, bridges, and flood control. He developed a theory commonly used in computing the backfill loads on pipes and received patents for special types of reinforcing for concrete pipes and for the methods of reducing loads carried by closed conduits buried in embankments or ditches. He wrote over 200 technical publications, books, and manuals.

Anson Marston belonged to numerous professional organizations, boards, and commissions. He was a member of National Research Council, the American Society of Engineers (Director, 1920-1922; Vice-President, 1923-1925; and President,1929), American Society for Testing Materials, the Society for Promotion of Engineering Education, the Land Grant College Engineering Association (President, 1913-1914), the Joint Concrete Culvert Pipe Committee (Chairman, 1920-1932), and the Committee C-6 on Drain Tile. He was also the Chairman for the Advisory Board on Highway Research National Research Committee and the Chairman of the Valuation Committee American Society of Civil Engineers.

In his prestigious career he won the Fuertes Medal (1904) from Cornell University, the Chanute Medal (1904) from the Western Society of Engineers, and the Lamme Medal (1941) from the Society for the Promotion of Engineering Education. He also received honorary degrees from the University of Nebraska (1925), Michigan State College (1927), and Iowa State (1948). Iowa State also established the Marston Medal (1938) in honor of Marston. The Marston Medal recognizes outstanding alumni of the College of Engineering.

Anson Marston married Alice Day December 14, 1892. They had two sons: Morrill Watson and Anson Day. Marston died October 21, 1949 from injuries he received during a car accident.

Resources available online


Marston Water Tower

Iowa State University Alumni Association



Anson Marston was the first Dean of Engineering at Iowa State.